You read that right: Amish Vampires. In Space.
Word Count: 137,000
Genre: Science Fiction
Content Warning: Minor Violence/Gore
Age Recommendation: 13+
Synopsis: Jebediah has a secret that will change his world forever and send his people into space. The Amish world of Alabaster calls upon an ancient promise to escape destruction and board a cargo ship bound for the stars. But they are not the only cargo on board. Some of it’s alive…or used to be. Now, with vampires taking over and closing in on the Amish refugees, these simple believers must decide whether their faith depends upon their honored traditions or something even older.
To be fair, this one did start out as a parody piece, but it’s a straight up sci-fi/horror work. Click here to read Kerry Neitz explaining how things came about. And you know it’s deep when you get a plug by Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show.
And for a limited time only, you can get the ebook version on sale at major book retail sites.
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Kerry Nietz is a self-proclaimed refugee of the software industry. He spent more than a decade of his life flipping bits, first as one of the principal developers of the database product FoxPro for the now mythical Fox Software, and then as one of Bill Gates’s minions at Microsoft. He is a husband, a father, a technophile and a movie buff. He has one non-fiction book, a memoir entitled FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software. Amish Vampires in Space is his fifth novel. He was gracious enough to answer a few- ok, more than a few- questions about himself and his writing process.
1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
It is something I’ve always wanted to do. I was a big reader as a kid and often tried my hand at writing even then. My mother still finds scraps of things I wrote. Little abandoned reveries. The final push came on a plane trip over fifteen years ago now. I happened to sit beside an elderly gentleman who identified himself as a writer. “And I’m one of those most uncommon creatures,” he said. “I’m a published writer!” When I told him that I’d always wanted to write, he said “Well, start early. You might get published before you die.” Shortly thereafter I bought a laptop and started actively writing. My first book was published in 2003.
2. How long does it take you to write a book?
Usually in the eight to nine month range for the first draft. Amish Vampires in Space was closer to ten months, but it is the longest thing I’ve ever written. (> 137,000 words)
3. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I write in the afternoons. Mornings are typically for other chores and some form of physical exercise. I write until I have at least 600 words, with the hope of more. Doesn’t sound like a lot, but I write from the seat of my pants, so there are many days where each word requires a lot of contemplation. Like walking in mud.
4. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know how interesting it is, but it is useful for me to end a day’s writing in the middle of a scene. No matter how much I might like to see how the scene plays out, it helps me to stop (as long as I’ve reached my word quota) and leave the resolution of the scene for the next day. Then to start that next day I read over the beginning of the scene, lightly edit, and start back into it again. It helps prevent the situation where I’m not sure where to go next.
5. How do books get published?
Today they get published in many ways. Mine have been published by first finding a publisher who might be interested in what I wrote, and then connecting with them in some way. So far, I haven’t had a single book that has been published through the traditional method of submitting a query letter or proposal and waiting for acceptance. The process for my first book, a non-fiction memoire, started with a simple email. And my first novel was published because I first sent the manuscript to an editor for advice. So it happens in lots of ways. Two of my books are self-published now—though they had been traditionally published before. One thing that is really important is to immerse yourself in the culture (forums, writing groups, etc.) of the genre you want to write in. You’ll make invaluable connections no matter how your book ultimately finds a cover.
6. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
The internet is wonderful for research these days, though it is best to check facts with a couple different sources. As for the ideas themselves…they come from all over. The impetus for Amish Vampires in Space came from a joke title my publisher used at writers conferences to illustrate the only sort of Amish fiction he’d be willing to publish. But aside from that one, it has mostly been flashes of images, or bits of dialog that would come to my mind. For instance, A Star Curiously Singing started with this image I had of a man sitting with a robot trying to analyze what was wrong with it by talking to it. I thought, “Well, that’s interesting. Who is this guy, and what’s going on here?” And my novel Mask started from this poetic line that would come to my head at random moments: I am the Mask, the Mask is me. What others miss, I always see.
7. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first complete manuscript when I was in my mid-twenties, but it was really, really rough. It was more of a brain dump of facts that I wanted to have available if I ever wanted to turn it into a book. It didn’t become a book until I was in my thirties, though. The title of that one is FoxTales, and it is the story of my first four years in the software industry. Twas a crazy time.
8. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have a family with three young children, so that takes a fair amount of my time. Plus, we live in a woods where there is always some issue to address—trees falling or an out-of-control varmint. Aside from that, though, I like to read, workout, play video games, and watch movies.
9. What does your family think of your writing?
Very supportive, though a couple of them don’t really understand what I do, they’re still cheerleaders. Most supportive, of course, is my wife. She has gone out of her way to give me time and freedom to write. She believes in what I do, sometimes more than I do. Tis a real blessing.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I think one of the most surprising things is how detached I can become from my writing once it is finished. And by that I don’t mean I no longer care about what I wrote, I mean the words no longer feel like they were ever a part of me. I don’t know how many times someone has mentioned a line that was significant to them, and I’d be like “Wow, that is pretty good. Did I write that?”
11. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have six published books. One of them is non-fiction, and the rest are novels. I also have a couple short stories out there. They are all favorites, and for different reasons. If I had to pick only one as a favorite, though, it would probably be my first novel—A Star Curiously Singing. It was a breakthrough when I was at the point of giving up.
12. Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
I’ve said this on other blogs on this tour, but the big one is perseverance. Nearly everything else—from writing difficulties, to story shortcomings, to finding a publisher—can be overcome, given enough time and determination. Just have to hang in there.
13. Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I do, and generally they are very encouraging. Just a quick note to say they really enjoyed the book, or that they left a review, or whatever. I dialog with quite a few reader and writer friends on Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter, as well. Though those conversations are about virtually anything. On occasion, you get the reader who wants to educate you. The funny thing there is that typically those are writers, or wannabe writers, who have this one pet peeve that they think you are somehow violating. You’d be a good writer if only you didn’t use the word “just” or whatever. It would probably bother them to know how little I think about any “rules” as I write. I get the words on the page. If I read them and they make sense, I’m good. Off to the editor.
14. Do you like to create books for adults?
I don’t think about it as creating books for any particular group. I more think about telling the story I want to tell. I leave the classification for the reader and those who care about such things.
15. What do you think makes a good story?
It has to be about something. It has to have some overarching theme that ties it all together. It doesn’t have to be blatant, or even that profound, but the story has to have meaning.
The best stories also have resonance. They have that one scene or that special character that will stick with the reader long after he or she has closed the book. Resonance is a plus, but theme is a must.
16. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
LOL. See question #1.